Iran starts "biggest" air defense war games

TEHRAN Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:29pm EST

1 of 2. A member of Iran's Revolutionary guard stands at attention in Azadi (freedom) Square in Tehran, April 25, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran began what it said was its biggest ever air defense drill on Tuesday to test its ability to deter air strikes, which the United States and Israel have not ruled out to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

The website of Iran's English-language Press TV said the five-day war games were being held near nuclear facilities and included tests of long-range missiles.

On Sunday, a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards said land forces had carried out military drills near Iran's nuclear facilities "exactly like real combat."

Western countries suspect Iran's atomic work is a cover for a nuclear weapons programme. Tehran denies this, saying it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

Israel, which says a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence, and its ally the United States have refused to rule out pre-emptive strikes against Iran, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued strongly against the military option on Tuesday.

"The large-scale military maneuvers ... will improve readiness to confront possible threats to Iran's air space and the very populated, vital and nuclear centers," Ahmad Mighani, head of an air force unit that responds to threats to Iran's air space, was quoted by state TV as saying.

Iran has repeatedly announced advances in its military capability to show it is ready to respond to military aggression.

Some Western officials suspect Iran is developing more sophisticated missiles and carrying out well-publicized missile tests so that it can deliver a nuclear weapon.

The Islamic Republic denies this, saying its missile development efforts are for defensive purposes only.

Iran said earlier this month that it had developed a home-made version of the Russian S-300 missile system and would soon test-fire it.

Moscow supported a fresh round of U.N. sanctions against Iran in June, and then refused to deliver an order of S-300s to Iran after persistent lobbying by Israel and the United States.

The S-300 is a mobile, long-range air defense system that can detect, track and destroy ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and low-flying aircraft.

Tehran has been hit by various international sanctions for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment activities. Uranium can be enriched to produce fuel for nuclear power plants or, if enriched to a higher level, to make atomic bombs.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

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Comments (16)
brutus.353 wrote:
If I was a citizen of Iran I would be willing to do anything to protect my country. Western nations have a habit of invading weaker nations when ever it is advantageous to them.
Iranians problems with the west,British occupation, support of the Shah and the secret police by the U.S. Support of Saddam military by the U.S during Iraq/ Iranian war and finally our resentment of Iranian help for the Palestinian cause.
Now they find themselves surrounded by
Western powers and threatened by bombing by Israel and Western powers.
If we were in their shoes what would we do? Surrender? I don’t think so, these folks would rather die by the millions.
Iranians do not appreciate our disdain for their faith, human behaviour and to be looked down upon by Westerners and above all luck of respect.
If Iran does build a bomb it will be only for self defence and not to be intimidated by foreign nations.

Nov 16, 2010 4:01pm EST  --  Report as abuse
RickCain wrote:
How quickly we forget that in 2001, Iran was instrumental in assisting the United States in the invasion of Afghanistan. Iran has had a very tense relationship with the Taliban and had great interest in seeing they be removed from power.
Iran also took in 750,000 Iraqi refugees when the USA invaded Iraq and displaced more than a million people in the process.
Too bad Americans have short attention spans and don’t understand the complex nature of events in the region.

Nov 16, 2010 4:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Bisky71 wrote:
We overthrew an elected Iranian president in the 50’s because he nationalized oil leaving BP in the cold. Since then things have been tense but they have broken no laws, have no nuclear weapons capability,agreed to send Uranium to Brazil to be enriched, have been honest about their facilities. They have no intention of attacking us, or nuking Israel if they had bombs. It’s absurd to think they would nuke their own holy sites and let fallout hit the Palestinians. They have a right to self defense and are doing nothing wrong.

Nov 16, 2010 4:17pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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